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Discovery and characterisation of new antibiotics from uncultivated microbes.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Recent developments in DNA sequencing technology have greatly enriched our understanding of the microbial world. By directly sequencing DNA extracted from communities of environmental microbes, we have been able to observe a hidden majority of microbial species that cannot be readily grown in the laboratory. We now know that the soil beneath our feet, and the oceans that surround us are home to a far greater diversity of microbial species than we had previously imagined. In the case of soil, just a single gram can contain more than 10,000 unique bacterial species, the vast majority of which have never been cultivated in a laboratory. Many of these uncultivated microbes harbor the potential to produce as yet unknown chemical entities that they use to kill competing species in their environments. We are surrounded by new antibiotics that are waiting to be discovered with the right approach.

This project will use DNA sequencing and synthetic biology to explore the biochemistry of New Zealand’s uncultivated microbes. By extracting DNA directly from complex microbial communities and storing this as a library of cloned fragments, one can directly access the genes that act as blueprints for producing novel chemical entities, without being limited by the need to cultivate the host bacteria. Delivering these instruction sets to a laboratory host that is able to read and execute them, allows generation diverse collections of new biologically active small molecules that have the potential to be developed into medicines. A particular focus of this research will be the discovery new lead compounds in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs.

The successful candidate will be working as part of a new, but very well funded research group in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. Our research is conducted at the interface of chemistry and biology, and has a strong computational component. This studentship will provide the opportunity to learn and employ a wide variety of research techniques in synthetic biology, microbiology, bioinformatics, natural products isolation and structure elucidation. The ideal candidate will have a strong academic track-record that demonstrates excellence in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Familiarity with cluster computing and proficiency in at least one programming language will be of great benefit for the successful completion of this project, and training in these areas will be provided if necessary.

Interested applicants should send a brief (2-3 page) C.V and an academic transcript.

References

Staff profile page:

https://www.victoria.ac.nz/sbs/about/staff/jeremy-owen

Google scholar profile:

https://scholar.google.co.nz/citations?hl=en&user=-KKxrpUAAAAJ&view_op=list_works&sortby=pubdate


Recent articles of particular relevance:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0110-1
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/14/4221.short
http://www.pnas.org/content/110/29/11797.short
http://www.pnas.org/content/111/10/3757.short
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1462-2920.2012.02699.x/full
https://elifesciences.org/content/4/e05048

Recent popular news articles highlighting the research, and funding successes of our group:

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2018660729/jeremy-owen-cancer-fighting-properties-of-the-sea-sponge
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/kiwi-scientists-helping-fight-worlds-biggest-threat
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/81080909/the-fight-against-antibioticresistant-superbugs-gets-a-12-million-boost
http://royalsociety.org.nz/2016/11/11/rutherford-discovery-fellows-2016/
http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/10699065/300k-boost-for-dirty-way-to-discover-antibiotics

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